Other famous names have embraced class D to exploit is efficiency in high-power circuits. That's the case for Jeff Rowland and their fourth generation of the Continuum S2 integrated amp now designed around Pascal's X-PRO modules, with a high-end buffer stage and sophisticated power supply (that’s also the case for their 525 stereo power amps which can be bridged to deliver circa 1’000 watts into 8Ω). Against such costly sighting there are those who try to market turnkey class D with stock modules for more affordable solutions in less expensive chassis. That's the case for D-Sonic, ClassD Audio, Aluminati, CIAudio, Arion Audio and Red Dragon. When I received a proposal from our Editor to review the new Red Dragon stereo power amplifier, my interest was piqued in stereo if you will.

First, my interest in the Red Dragon S500 was due to its huge power from a very small box, at a very decent price but still able to operate in BTL bridge-tied-load mode to increase its power fourfold like my Luxman M800a. The chance to compare both circuits in stereo and bridged modes was rather appealing. Most reports on affordable class D contenders only describe a kind of 'whoa' effect which despite highlighting worthwhile performance aspects doesn’t really provide one with the full extent of their capabilities nor any direct comparisons against costly high-end rivals. My setup however would make for a very interesting investigation with my full-range Vivid speakers which are medium-challenge loads. What would become the more convincing association: higher switching power reserves at a decent price with very short path circuitry; or sophisticated linear power with a huge amount of current but four time less power? As far as I knew, this comparison hadn't been done elsewhere yet. And to those who assume before reading further that the game will surely be rigged and that my secret agenda is to downsize the appeal of these new class D boxes, I would say that my interest in class D devices has never been higher. After my previous experience with the entry-level SPEC Corp RSA-717EX, I was really skeptical about the asking price for my two Luxman amps when this small low-powered box did surprisingly well for about 8 time less coin driving my previous Vivid Audio K1 (less demanding speakers than my current G1).

Second and as very few people know, my main occupation is related to mergers and acquisitions in the oil & gas industry. This is a lucrative activity, undoubtedly far more so than any typical audio business. People working in the M&A sector generally use silly code names to designate any divestment project. What could be the link with the Red Dragon Audio company? "Red Dragon" was one of the code names I used a few years ago to identify an important divestment project in Western Europe. Pure coincidence or kismet? I don't know but still could not refuse this assignment. So here we are now, focusing on the main protagonist, Red Dragon Audio and founder Ryan Tew.

Red Dragon Audio are a small outfit based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Red Dragon have been active in the amplification market since 2005 and may no longer be considered a genuine startup. Ryan Tew is a qualified engineer and father of four kids. He remains perfectly aware of the highly competitive difficult audio market and thus decided to keep his main occupation within the IT industry. At ACS Xerox, he works as a senior business analyst to guarantee financial health to his family. Then he spends remaining time and energy to market ultra-efficient and affordable amps, hence class D variants. He began with B&O's ICEpower modules in his M500 and M1000 monaural amps. Recently he decided to explore more current OEM options with Pascal Pro modules. What preceded this was a long relationship between B&O and Ryan Tew. This began with Ryan's mother owning a pair of B&O speakers when he was a child. He had to repair one of them with parts procured from a local electronics store. It was the starting point of Ryan's interest in electronics. His interest was so high that he created a small business of car audio installation services from inside his parent's garage, designing all the electrical layouts, custom filters and enclosures for all manner of passenger cars and trucks. In the meantime, his passion for music grew in lockstep and he studied for many years the saxophone from the alto to the baritone. At university, he began working on simple amplification designs during his courses in Electrical Engineering. Post university, Ryan Tew took a detour operating an IT and web hosting server business for a number of years. His interest in audio then led him to found his own company ten years ago. It was early days still for the Red Dragon adventure whilst my own Red Dragon M&A project was not even on the event horizon of possible scenarios just then.